Army, 1944

Keisuke Kinoshita’s wartime film, Army is anything but the rousing call to arms and reinforcement of patriotism that the authorities had envisioned the film would be. Known for his Ofuna-flavored shomin-geki “women’s pictures”, Kinoshita subverts the official themes of duty, allegiance to the emperor, and national glory. Contrasting the emotional (and philosophical) rigidity of the family patriarchs through several generations as they try to instill the virtues of service and duty as career officers against the exquisitely haunting final sequence of an extended tracking shot of the mother, played by the great actress and frequent Mizoguchi heroine (and erstwhile muse) Kinuyo Tanaka, running alongside her son as the new military recruits march through the streets in a send-off parade before being deployed to the battlefront, the lingering image of the price of war becomes imprinted, not in the father’s stern and uncompromising life lessons but in the complexity of emotions revealed through a mother’s anxious, tearful farewell.

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